In the romantically rolling hills of Tuscany, winemaking history goes back not just centuries, but millennia. The region's most popular wine, Chianti, has been made since at least the 14th century. Yet simply because a wine's history is long doesn't mean that it has always been glorious. In fact, by the 1960s and '70s, Chianti's quality had sunk to the point that, for most consumers, its traditional straw-wrapped bottles seemed to have more value empty as kitschy kitchen decor.
Fortunately, the book on Tuscan winemaking is anything but closed. Once-maligned Chianti is not only back, its better than ever. And Chianti and other wines are helping todays Tuscany stake a legitimate claim as one of the worlds most exciting regions for both traditional and cutting-edge wines.
After more than six centuries, Chianti is still tops in popularity among Tuscan red wines. But even though overall quality is at an all-time high, its important to remember that there are wide variations. In the best versions, Chianti is pleasantly tangy, medium-bodied, earthy and, often, highlighted with a kiss of red cherry. These qualities make it a phenomenal partner to a wide range of foods.
Although Chianti is often a blend of several grapes, Sangiovese is by far the most important variety. With a temperamental streak rivaling that of an Italian diva, Sangiovese is one grape that insists on impeccable soil, sun exposure and winery techniques if it's going to put on its best performance.
To qualify as Chianti, the grapes have to be grown, and the wine produced, within the boundaries of Tuscany's Chianti region. And Chianti itself is divided into seven sub-zones. Two sub-zones in particular -- Classico and Rufina -- consistently craft standout Chiantis.
For those looking for sophisticated, age-worthy wines, both the Classico and Rufina zones produce Chianti Riservas in addition to traditional Chiantis. These wines get the spa treatment, spending substantial time lounging in oak before being bottled and released for sale. Look for the words "Chianti Classico Riserva" and "Chianti Rufina Riserva" on their respective labels.
Chianti's nosedive in quality during the '60s and '70s led innovative, quality-minded Tuscan winemakers to the bold idea of abandoning the sinking Chianti brand in order to create an entirely new style of wine. To do this, winemakers turned to grape varieties not traditionally grown in the area. Although any variety was considered fair game, Cabernet Sauvignon emerged and remains the most important, figuring prominently in many of the best wines. The rebel winemakers named their anything-goes wines Super Tuscans and, with a snub to convention, sold them as vini da tavola, or table wines -- a lowly status in Italy's tradition-bound wine labeling system.
The wines themselves, however, were anything but lowly. And the wine loving public quickly caught on. Today, due to their worldwide renown for quality, intensity, and age-worthiness, Super Tuscans garner some of the most stratospheric prices of all Italian wines.
On the label, Super Tuscans are no longer sold as table wines, but are usually marked with Toscana or Toscano, and the words Indicazione Geografica Tipica, or the letters, IGT. And some famous-- and famously expensive-- Super Tuscans are labeled as DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllate) Bolgheri or Bolgheri Sassicaia.
Re: Unusual Wine Countries( subject to availability)
Thank you and others for your help re the meaning of "subject to availability". I have followed your advice, called the hotel beforehand, confirmed their dates , bid and booked. Yippee! This really works. No wonder I have read of so many people being addicted.
Re: Unusual Wine Countries( subject to availability)
Congratulations on your winning your LL auction and securing the dates you wanted. As you see, this really does work. Now go and have fun enjoying your vaction and report back to us to let us know of your experience. In the meantime, however, don't forget to rate the posts as this too is an important part of the LL community. By the way where are you going to? If you let us know, perhaps some members might have some input and advice on the property you won the auction for.
Re: Unusual Wine Countries( subject to availability)
The Biltmore Estate and Winery in Asheville, NC
On our way up North from Florida we just stopped at the Biltmore Estate and Winery. What a wonderful place to visit and what a treat it was.
More than a century ago George W. Vanderbilt chose a picturesque setting in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolinato create his home. His vision for Biltmore was one of a progressive, self-sustaining, working estate that would benefit the community and the land. The sheer scale of Biltmore House is almost overwhelming, yet it feels surprisingly welcoming and comfortable. After all, these amazing four acres of floor space were designed not as a museum but as a family home and country retreat. To this day, it is still the largest privately owned home in America, and it remains one of the most engaging portraits of 19th-century life ever created.
Although George W. Vanderbilt did not plant Biltmore's vineyards in his day, the vineyard is an interpretation of his original vision, which was perpetuated in 1978 when the first wines were produced at Biltmore under the guidance of Philippe Jourdain of Provence, France. Jourdain, Biltmore's first wine master, was a sixth generation winemaker who had been involved in the winemaking business all his life. When Jourdain retired in 1995, Bernard Delille became Biltmore's next wine master. Having been winemaker at Biltmore since 1986, Delille recognized the challenges and opportunities that Biltmore's wine company would face as it began its next phase of maturity. Delille holds a master's degree from the Faculty of Science in Lyon, France, and served his internship in the Bordeauxregion. He received his French National Diploma of Winemaker in Dijon, Burgundy, and was winemaker in the Pyrenees Atlantiques region prior to coming to Biltmore. While Delille and Jourdain come from different regions in France, they approach the art of winemaking in much the same way. Both use the benefits of a French winemaking background to transform American grapes into Biltmore's fine varietal wines.
Today, Biltmore's vineyards comprise 94 acres on the west side of Biltmore Estate where Chardonnay, Riesling, Viognier, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot varietals are grown. A 35-acre lake constructed on the site helps to ensure a favorable microclimate - the water creates a pocket of warm air beside the vineyards helping to combat the late spring frosts that are common in the Western North Carolina Mountains. Each year between late August and mid-October, Biltmore employees, so we were told, gather in the vineyards to pick the grapes by hand, ensuring only ripe, perfect "berries" are selected.
Since the Biltmore vineyards are able to satisfy only a portion of the Winery's production needs, Delille and fellow winemaker Sharon Fenchak craft award-winning vintages by sourcing grapes not only from Biltmore's harvest, but also from some of the Nation's finest vinyards.
In order to constantly improve Biltmore wines and to please the ever-changing consumer palette, Delille and Fenchak conduct extensive experimentation with different grape varietals, yeast, barrels and new equipment. In addition, the Vineyard Manager experiments throughout the year with pruning methods, leaf removal, crop thinning and pesticide use to determine the most efficient and environmentally conscious grape growing methods.
In 1985, the Biltmore Winery opened in the renovated dairy on Biltmore Estate, originally designed by Richard Morris Hunt, the architect for Biltmore House. Today, most might be surprised to realize that America's most-visited winery isn't located in California but rather in Western North Carolina. Biltmore's Winery welcomes over one million guests each year and strives to accommodate those who are new to the world of wine and food as well as the connoisseur in search of a distinctive varietal. The winery offers guests the opportunity to view fermentation and bottling rooms, stroll through the cellars, enjoy special food and wine events and, of course, taste the finished product. Biltmore wines are now available in 12 states and the District of Columbia.
Today, during our visit, the Biltmore Winery was offering their Riesling for a tasting. Mmh, mmh what a treat that was. We just loved it.... Riesling has been produced at Biltmore since the early 1980's and has been a long-term favorite of both Biltmore's winemakers and guests. Crisp and semi-sweet, this Riesling nicely balances fruit-forward flavors of apricot, pear and green apple with a balanced acidity and the exotic floral notes of Lychee and Pineapple. The fruity flavors, high acidity, and lower alcohol offer a refreshing choice for both the novice or experienced wine drinker and is a great addition to almost any occasion. This versatile wine complements a variety of foods - from spicy dishes to sweet fresh fruit or strong blue cheese to light fish and seafood.
All in all, this visit was well worth it. The house alone is well worth a visit, but the winery was tops. We will be visiting some more wineries in North Carolina and Virginia, as we make our way up North.
Re: Unusual Wine Countries( subject to availability)
Hello all! Mdmackinnon I'm so pleased that you are contributing to the LL community Congrats on your European trip!
LHBrown WOW you have some fabulous information here. Isn't the Biltmore Estate wonderful? I second your opinion that this is one spectacular place to visit. you are making me thirsty! Enjoy Virginia wines we found many small local wineries. thomas Jefferson was a connosiuer of wine so his summer home - the Forest and Monticello both have wineries. Great Fun! Thanks also for the Chianti infomation. I have written down your descriptions of the bottling notations, for use on our Italian LL adventure in late August and early September. Can't wait! Happy and safe travels...Funtimes
My husband and I were there the week you posted. Yes, there are some wonderful wines in the region. We spent most of our time around Seneca Lake and stayed at the hotel at Glenora Winery. We bookended a trip to Niagara on the Lake (an LL package) with the Fingerlakes so that our driving time would be broken up. We were driving from Baltimore. The Niagara, Vineland, and Jordan areas of Canada also have some amazing wines.
After visiting the Biltmore Estate and Winery, we drove further North and did some more exploring of the many wineries on route. North Carolina has over 50 wineries we were told, and the number increases every year. Small farmers who once depended on tobacco are switching to grapes and returning wine to its former position in Carolina's economy. In the early 1900s, North Carolina had 25 thriving wineries, more than any other state, and led the nation in wine production until 1909, when its citizens voted to go dry.
Our next stop was the YadkinValley. We stayed in Winston-Salem, a city rich in historic and cultural attractions. In this region, where bootleggers outrunning federal agents have been replaced by race car drivers, visitors can find corporate-style modern winemaking facilities, mom-and-pop operations, fruit wines galore, wineries specializing in native American grapes and even one winery with direct links to NASCAR.
Racing team owner Richard Childress poured a trackful of his NASCAR earnings into Childress Vineyards, creating an Italian wine estate in the Piedmont, which is what North Carolinians call their robust central region. His winery near Lexington is a destination for NASCAR fans, as visitors can view memorabilia of Childress's years in racing. The winery is also the unofficial gateway to the YadkinValley.
From Childress Vineyards, it's a short hop to RayLen Vineyards on Route 158 near Mocksville, set atop rolling hills and marked by its distinctive crow's nest rooftop. It's a down-home spot where you can relax on rocking chairs and pack the lawn for the Spring Oyster Roast and the Summer Full Moon Band Jam for which we arrived just a bit early.
Westbend Vineyards, a little farther north on 158, is the region's oldest winery. A showcase wine estate, it's particularly large in contrast to the Valley's smallest winery, Hanover Park, which is a few miles west off Route 61 and is run by former teacher-artist Amy Helton and her husband, Mike, who both fell in love with wine on a trip to France. Hanover Park, which makes fewer than 2,400 cases annually, produces highly regarded Chardonnay and Viognier and Michael's Blend, a Meritage-type wine.
The owners of Hanover Park, Amy Helton and her husband Mike
There are many other wineries along the way, but a fitting final stop was the Wolf's Lair Restaurant at Black Wolf Vineyards in Dobson in the northern extreme of the Valley. We capped our day with a final tasting and dinne at Wolf's Lair, which has been featured inb many national publications (the walls are filled with them), and then drove back to Winston Salem for the night. All in all we had a lovely time exploring North Carlolina's wineries.
Picking Up Where Jefferson Left Off in the Virginia Wine Country
Thomas Jefferson's Monticello Thomas Jefferson just couldn't get it right, but it really wasn't his fault. Jefferson, a distinguished statesman, inventor, architect and scientist, tried to cultivate Europe's great grapes in Virginia as early as 1770 but was interrupted by the Revolution, which left his vineyards untended and deteriorating. Though he tried nobly for 30 years afterward to perfect grape-growing in Virginia, his efforts were frustrated by climate and lack of technical expertise. In the end, winemaking became one of Jefferson's few failures.
Jefferson's disappointment, however, may have sown the seeds for today's winemaking successes. Currently, Virginia is dotted with nearly 100 vineyards and wineries, many of them near Charlottesville. The area is rich in history --James Madison's home, Montpelier, is nearby, and a short ride to the east are Jefferson's estate, Monticello, and the University of Virginia at Charlottesville, which Jefferson designed.
There are two dozen wineries within a half-hour drive of Charlottesville, and although it may call for some circuitous travel, the trek is rewarding. Jefferson Vineyards, where the president made his first plantings in 1774, is a short drive east of Monticello. Just over the hill is the Kluge Estate Winery and Vineyard, a winery, food and crafts center with Albemarle House, a Georgian-style manor, as its focus. Kluge rambles over 1,800 acres, and visitors should be prepared to spend a half day touring its gardens, winery facilities and crafts shops.
Jefferson designed a handful of houses, including Monticello, PoplarForest (his intended retreat, near Lynchburg in south-central Virginia), and Barboursville, built forVirginia Governor James Barbour. The ruins of that house, decimated by fire in 1884, bring added interest to Barboursville Vineyards, one of the state's largest wineries, about 29 miles northeast of Charlottesville at the intersection of Rt. 33 and Rt. 20. Jefferson's preference for Italianarchitecture is reflected in the winery's Palladio Restaurant, designed -- as was Monticello -- in the style of the Italian architect of the same name. Nearby is Horton Vineyards, which not only cultivates European varietals but also champions Virginia's native grape, Norton.
Turning west from Charlottesville, the hills are alive with beautiful vistas off the Blue Ridge Parkway. It's worth a detour to take a ride along that fabled road, and also to visit a trio of small wineries just off the Parkway.Just 15 minutes west of Charlottesville is King Family Vineyards, whose inducements also include Sunday afternoon polo matches in summer. Nearby in Afton are Cardinal Point Vineyard and Winery and Afton Mountain Vineyards, a pair of wineries with appealing picnic grounds and splendid views of the mountain country.
Long Island Wine Country is the fastest growing and most widely recognized wine producing region in the northeast.
Founded over 30 years ago by wine pioneer Louisa Hargrave and her husband Alex,Long Island Wine Country's 40 wineries now produce wine respected by the worlds most recognized experts and connoisseurs.
But 30 years is nothing on the scale of vineyards, and Long Island Wine Country, perhaps because of its youth and struggle for recognition, is thankfully still a little on the earthy side.
Most of the wineries are owned by families who take an active role in managing the vineyards, making the wine, and running the tasting rooms.
This works out well for us, the visitors and tourists who want to experience Long Island Wine Country first hand. We actually get to meet the people who make the wine...
And to me, meeting the people and hearing their stories makeswine that much more enjoyable.
Although all of Long Island is a designated AVA (American Viticultural Area) the wineries and vineyards are most heavily concentrated on the eastern end of Long Island in an area known as the North Fork.
This area is surrounded by water which helps regulate temperature and humidity, and creates an excellent environment for the vines. In fact, the areas climate is very similar to some of the best wine producing regions of France. Needless to say, the grapes grow very well here.
The beautiful and bucolic north fork is the part of Long Island most peopleassociate with Long Island Wine Country.
The vineyard and tasting room at Bedell Cellars.
But enough background info, heres yourhow to guide to exploring Long Island Wine Country on Long Islands North Fork.
The itinerary I have planned features wineries that in my experience offer the best combination of good wine and tasting room experience for the first time visitor.
This itinerary is meant as a guide and unless youre into speed tasting (not recommended) you will not be able to complete the tour in a single day. A good excuse to go back however...
Long Island Wine Country offers a lot more than just wine. Along the way youll see of farms and farm stands, antique shops, restaurants and more. Try to make it to the first winery by 12pm so youll have plenty of time to enjoy it all.
Itinerary & Directions
Ill assume youre already on Long Island (see directions if youre not).
Turn right onto Rt. 24 at the end of the off ramp.
Turn left on Rt. 105 then right on Rt. 25 (youll see the Long Island Wine Country sign.)
From this point its just a few miles to Paumanok Vineyards, the first winery on our list.
This winery is run by the Massoud family and produces excellent wine. The tasting room is clean, well organized and very friendly.
I have always enjoyed my visits here. Their 2001 Grand Vintage Cabernet Sauvignon is a favorite of mine and I hear their 2001 Grand Vintage Merlot is outstanding as well.1
Continue east on Rt. 25 (Main Road). Look for Jamesport Vineyards on your left. (Youll see a little green signs along the way giving notice that a winery or vineyard is coming up.)
Winemaker Les Howard has been doing a fine job with the grapes here and his 2005 sauvignon blanc is highly recommended.2
Also look for their East End series of wines, which help support SPAT, Southolds aquaculture training program.
Martha Clara Vineyards
Continue east on Rt. 25. Left on Manor Lane. Right on Sound Avenue (Rt. 48).
Look for Martha Clara Vineyards on your right.
With a huge tasting room, gift shop and a dining area youll probably spend a lot of time here. On most weekends there is a local chef preparing Long Island delicacies in the dining room, so you may want to stay for lunch.
Dont forget to enjoy a free hayride while youre there and to check out the livestock out back.
Continuing east on 48 youll pass Macari Vineyards and Winery and Leib Family Cellars. The wine is good so stop in if you like, but we have a lot more ground to cover
Continue east on Rt. 48. Right on Love Lane. Left on Rt. 25.
Look for Pellegrini Vineyards on your left. Pellegrini has beautiful grounds, a beautiful tasting room and an excellent self guided tour of the winery and wine making process. Definitely a worthwhile stop. Continuing east on Rt. 25 brings you to...
Galluccio Family Wineries
Galluccio is set on very large grounds and actually has a sign posted invitingyou to picnic on their lawn. Their large tasting room / gift shop is clean and comfortable.
In addition to their Long Island wines, Gallucciooffers a variety of wines from upstate. Of particular interest to me is a blueberry wine I tasted there last summer. Made only from blueberries (no other flavors or ingredients were added) this wine had all the qualities of a good red wine but with a slight blueberry slant.
At this point you can either continue on Rt. 25 to Pugliese Vineyards or, if you have time, you can turn left on Alvahs Lane back up to Sound Avenue.
Castello di Borghese, Vineyard 48, Little Cigar Factory
Heading east on Sound youll almost immediately see Castello di Borghese on your right. Formerly Hargrave Vineyard, this is the winery that started it all.
Vineyard 48 is next up. Theres a Little Cigar Factory in Vineyard 48, so if youre into the cigar thing this might be a must see.
Continue east on Rt. 48. Right on Cox Lane. Left on Rt. 25.
Pugliese Vineyards is a family run operation that produces some of my favorite wines.
They are the only winery making sparkling merlot and my favorite everyday red, sangiovese, Long Islands only chianti. I'm also a huge fan of their Late Harvest Gewrztraminer and Raffaello White Port.
I've always felt welcome in the Pugliese family tasting room. I'm sure you will too.
Bedell Cellars, Pindar
From this point on well stay on Rt. 25. Continuing east, look for Bedell Cellars. Michael Lynne, owner of Bedell is trying to become best wine producer in the world and it shows.
Combining art and wine his wines, bottles and tasting room are a unique experience. One of my favs at Bedell is Cupula, an outstanding blend of 4 different red wines.
Right down the road is Pindar Vineyards. Perhaps better known for the size of their tasting room rather than their wines,Pindar really does have some nice wine to offer.
I am particularly fond of their Champagne. Well, youre really not supposed to use the C word unless its actually made there. Nonetheless, its one of the few sparklers I actually like. Im also a fan of their cabernet port dessert wine. It is truely amazing with chocolate.
I cant say enough about Lenz. Winemaker Eric Fry does a spectacular job producing sparklers, whites and reds. I learned a lot about wine in a wine tasting class led by Mr. Fry.
If youre a wine aficionado definitely visit Lenz.
Okay were still in Long Island Wine Country, but were done with the wineries. Now its time for dinner.
Most of what Greenport offers is concentrated in one small area so I wont give directions or specifics about where to eat.
Thebest thing to do is find a place to park and just walk around. There are lots of restaurants to choose from with varying prices and menus. The choice is yours.
By the way, if you dont feel up to the drive home there are several hotels you can crash in.
Try the Greenporter Hotel (631-477-0066). Not too classy, but inexpensive.
On the other end of the spectrum is The Harborfront Inn (631-477-0707). Ive stayed here myself and it is a very nice place. Very expensive, but very nice.
Your best bet is probably the Townsend Manor Inn (631-477-2000). Ive stayed here on occasion and enjoy the swimmingpool and restuarant. As one of the least expensive hotels in Greenport,you cant beat this place for the price.
Hello fellow travel and wine fans!! WOW you are really taking this seriously - directions even...Thank you for all the input. LHBrown your picture of Monticello is beautiful. The descriptions of Thomas Jefferson's wine production is a real education. I guess when I mentioned that we enjoyed Virginia wine country - I must have been tipping a few - since my description pails in comparison to yours. Thank you for informative, educational materials regarding wine and unusual wine countries. Just returning from Canada, I can tell you that wine there is NO bargain. Hard liquor was much less expensive than wine in Canada, although all liquor was expensive. I believe their "sin" tax is much higher in Canada than in the US in order to help pay healthcare costs. Does anyone know if this assumption is correct? Take Care and thanks for contributing ...Funtimes